France beats Germany in Euro Cup action

France beat Germany 1-0 in Munich in a game where they had two goals disallowed.

A Mats Hummels own goal proved to be enough for France to start Euro 2020 with three points and a 1-0 win over Germany.

Didier Deschamps’ world champions France had two goals disallowed in a game where neither side showed quite the cutting edge that had been expected of them in the biggest game so far at the European Championships.

In a first half light on quality, Paul Pogba provided the game’s telling moment, a brilliant cross-field pass with the outside of his boot that Lucas Hernandez volleyed across goal for Hummels to turn into his own net. It was the only real chance that France created in the first half, though Germany were not all that more incisive, with several of the best chances they made throughout the match wasted by Serge Gnabry.

Adrien Rabiot hit the post early in the second half but as the match wore on, Germany’s passive possession at least offered them a foothold in the contest. French breaks, however, still seemed more likely to lead to a goal, particularly when they were led by Kylian Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain striker had the ball in the net in the 66th minute only for a brilliant curling effort with his right foot to be ruled out for an offside.

Mbappe was also convinced he had won a penalty late on when he burst away from Hummels in a foot race that looked rather like a tractor against a fighter jet, but the veteran German just about managed to get a foot on the ball to deny his opponent. Another tight decision went Germany’s way late on when Mbappe was adjudged to have slipped slightly offside in the build-up to a move that ended with him squaring the ball for Karim Benzema to score.

Still, Germany could not make the most of those lifelines, Leroy Sane smacking a late free kick high and wide and Toni Kroos miscuing a corner in a frustrating end for the hosts, who face a challenging clash with Portugal on Saturday as they battle to get on the board at Euro 2020. 

Mbappe was also convinced he had won a penalty late on when he burst away from Hummels in a foot race that looked rather like a tractor against a fighter jet, but the veteran German just about managed to get a foot on the ball to deny his opponent. Another tight decision went Germany’s way late on when Mbappe was adjudged to have slipped slightly offside in the build-up to a move that ended with him squaring the ball for Karim Benzema to score.

Still, Germany could not make the most of those lifelines, Leroy Sane smacking a late free kick high and wide and Toni Kroos miscuing a corner in a frustrating end for the hosts, who face a challenging clash with Portugal on Saturday as they battle to get on the board at Euro 2020. 

Meanwhile, the contrast could not have been any sharper with the German engine room, which was shorn of its best midfielder as Joshua Kimmich was shunted out to right wing back where he picked up an early yellow card trying to quell Kylian Mbappe. All Kroos and Ilkay Gundogan could do was watch Pogba breeze past them.

It is notable that, Kante aside, this France side is not really pressing, simply allowing teams to pass the ball around them. With he and Pogba shielding a defense similarly reinforced with quality while doing so much more in possession, it is easy to see how France can simply grind their way deep into this tournament, conceding few while resting assured that the sheer quality they have in advanced areas will get them goals.

There are certainly issues for Joachim Low to address as he bids for success in his final international tournament. It took nigh on an hour for the wing backs to get into the game, Robin Gosens a shadow of his Atalanta self before that. Havertz seemed ill at ease as an inside forward in a 3-4-3, having spent the past few months playing centrally for Chelsea. The midfield of Kroos and Gundogan looks too slow against the top sides and there was a real lack of creativity in central areas.

In those facets, you could see why there is not the usual optimism around Germany’s hopes heading into a major tournament. Indeed, it is not considered a fringe view to suggest that Low’s reign might end with his team failing to reach a knockout stage that 16 of 24 teams will qualify for.

However, it was Germany that dominated possession, that had the most attempts on goal and that might have won this if Gnabry was his usually incisive self in the penalty area. Three tempting chances came his way, one in the first half that he poked wide and two in the space of as many minutes around the hour-mark. Seeing a forward of his quality utterly shank a shot so thoroughly feels incomprehensible. It is fair to assume that it will not happen all that often again.

He was not the only one whose technique let him down late on. Sane’s touch was heavy or non-existent. Substitutes Kevin Volland and Timo Werner both misplaced easy passes. That might be all that needs to change for Germany, that these eminently capable footballers just need to get the final ball right. It ought not to be beyond them.

In other aspects of the game, that progress was apparent. The Germany side that looked unable to string passing moves together early on were far more at ease controlling possession as the game wore on and were not really tested in the second period, bar one dart from Rabiot and the moment when an offside Mbappe put the ball in the net. This was likely the toughest test they faced at the Euros and they at least looked France’s equal for 85 minutes. They may yet need a point against Portugal to ensure that they do not need to beat Hungary by a cricket score to qualify for the knockout stages as a third-placed finisher, but on tonight’s evidence they should not be discounted if they can develop as the tournament wears on.